Tiffany Towns, Lycoming College visiting assistant professor of theater and costume designer, hails from Dawsonville, Ga., and has landed in Williamsport to bring her artistic and creative touches to the 2012-13 theater department season.
She recently received her master of fine arts degree from the University of Alabama, and has already accumulated an impressive resume of accomplishments. She has worked in various capacities with Glimmerglass Opera, Cooperstown, N.Y.; Seaside Music Theatre, Daytona Beach, Fla.; the Texas Shakespeare Festival, Kilgore, Texas; across the Atlantic at the Geneva English Drama Society in Geneva, Switzerland; and the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, Ga., where she was challenged in new and different ways.
"I never knew I'd use my costume technology training to create a miniature pirate hat for a mermaid, a lab coat for a giant talking pill-bottle or a set of legs for a dancing banana," Towns said.
Tiffany Towns is seen.
The Sun-Gazette recently had the opportunity to ask Towns about her costume design background and moving to the Williamsport area.
Krista Storm: How did you become interested in theater?
Tiffany Towns: My interest in theater initially started in high school through Master's Academy of Fine Arts [in Georgia]. It was there that I was cast in my first role as the funny and mischievous lead, and I fell in love with the interaction between the audience and the actors, the sense of community. I almost went to college to study piano performance, but was encouraged to pursue all of my interests - music, dance and theater - by becoming a musical theater student. This was how I initially got into theater in college. While working with GTA [Gainesville Theatre Alliance, Oakwood, Ga.], I was involved in productions through acting and stage managing, while working in the costume shop as a stitcher, design assistant, first hand and even an unofficial shop manager of sorts. I was eventually asked to design the costumes for a student-directed production. This was my first official experience with costume design, and following this experience, I continued to seek opportunities to design for student productions, the GTA Repertory Company and eventually a mainstage production.
KS: What do you like about designing? Teaching?
TT: I really enjoy the problem-solving aspect of costume design. Someone once said to me that creative people need boundaries because it is figuring out how to work within those given parameters that makes our creativity come to life. I love creating a design and figuring out how to make that idea come to life-and still stay under budget!
I like teaching much for the same reasons. I truly enjoy everything in general about being a teacher - developing the lesson plans, grading papers and projects, discussing teaching methods with other teachers. But specifically, I am passionate about engaging students and figuring out how to teach each of them as individuals in their own unique way.
KS: What play have you always wanted to design?
TT: "Kiss Me, Kate," "Oklahoma!," "My Fair Lady," "Singing in the Rain" I love the classics. I have designed "The Comedy of Errors" as a paper project in a graduate design class, but I'd love to get a chance to design it and see it onstage. Maybe I'm still early enough in my career that I could make it my goal to design (almost) every one of Shakespeare's plays.
I love designing for children's theater and really any play that allows me to be whimsical. I also prefer designing historical plays over contemporary plays because I find the shapes and silhouettes of the clothing so much more interesting. Working with Shakespeare allows the creative team to really let loose and brainstorm new concepts.
KS: What inspires your design choices?
TT: The mood or tone of the play along with the underlying theme is very important to me. My favorite design element though is definitely texture, and this usually comes across in my fabric choices. I love mixing a variety of visual and literal textures in my costumes and I am finding interesting combinations of patterns and prints. I am also drawn to the element of shape and am consistently pushing myself to look at shapes in new and inventive ways.
KS: What is your favorite part of the design process?
TT: My favorite part is definitely the realization of the design - the problem-solving phase of figuring out how to pull and repurpose items to make them work for the show versus what to buy and what to build. I can definitely tell you that my least favorite part of the process is shopping for clothing items for a contemporary show. It is like torture to me!
KS: What are you looking forward to at Lycoming College?
TT: I am looking forward to building up the theater department. I am excited to support and assist the students in their personal goals both here and beyond. There are several students that already have big plans ahead for this semester, and I am very honored to be here to get behind their efforts and encourage them in their endeavors. I am also really excited to work with "Dr. J." [N. J. Stanley, chairperson of the theater department] and Jay [Jathan Innerarity, visiting assistant professor of theater and scenic and lighting designer and technical director] on "The Threepenny Opera."
I think it is a show that will challenge my own design aesthetic and push me out of my designing comfort zone of pretty, cheery and whimsical. I am excited to see what our collaboration produces.I would like to add a thank you to the community of Williamsport for being so welcoming and helpful in my first weeks of settling in here. I moved up to town on my own, and each person I met, whether at the grocery store or a thrift store or a local restaurant, was incredibly generous and kind.
To view Towns' work, visit tiffany towns.zenfolio.com.